By Mandy Griffiths
“Dark Shadows” is just your typical ‘vampire imprisoned for centuries by a spurned witch lover after she made the love of his life jump off a cliff’ movie. And it’s a comedy! I think? Well, it’s set in the 70s anyway, and, er, if that wasn’t one hilarious generation then… I don’t know why “That 70s Show” ran for eight years (actually, I don’t know).
Based on the classic TV series of the same name, Tim Burton’s “”Alice in Wonderland” follow-up features Johnny Depp (can you believe it!?) as Barnabas Collins, the aforementioned vampire who must adjust to life to in the 1970s after his padlocked coffin is unearthed to make way for a new McDonalds. He returns to his family home to find the Collins descendents, lady of the house Elizabeth (Michelle Pfeiffer, reuniting with her “Batman Returns” director Burton), her brother Roger (Johnny Lee Miller) daughter Carolyn (Chloe Grace Moretz), and Roger’s son David (Gulliver McGrath). Also living with them is David’s psychiatrist Dr Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter, who, like Depp, is a regular staple in Burton fare), and a new addition to the family, David’s nanny, Victoria (Bella Heathcote) who seems to have a mysterious past of her own.
Unfortunately for Barnabas, also still living in the town is the aforementioned spurned witch lover, Angelique, played with delicious wickedness by Eva Green. Barnabas undertakes the journey of a vampire learning to live with electricity, moody teenagers, hippies, vengeful exes, and courting females in an era of lava lamps and mirror balls. He is also quite moved by the cinematic tearjerker of the time, “Love Story”.
The good: Barnabas’s bewilderment at this “modern” life he has wondered into is the highlight of the film, and Depp shines with confusion and old fashioned determination as he attempts to crack this 70s nut. The costuming and design under Burton’s direction are an aesthetic feast as always. It’s great to see Michelle Pfeiffer in action again, but quite honestly, all the characters are a joy to watch. And no offense to the popular AM stations, but the music of 1972 has never sounded so good, with a rocking soundtrack that sets the tone perfectly.
The bad: This film seems to suffer the same fate that “Alice In Wonderland” did, which is it succumbs to disappointing third act. For two thirds of the film you think you’re watching a masterpiece, and then it barrels towards the end and you’re left a bit confused and disappointed. There is a reveal about one of the children that seems completely unearned, and also, there’s no real moral to the story, just a set up for a vampire and witch to face off in an entertaining way. The film sets itself up with a very interesting character in Victoria, only for her to lose the screen almost entirely as soon as Barnabas re-enters. This is indeed Depp’s show, and while he excels at it, it would have been nice for the rest of the family and Victoria to have been fleshed out a little more. Still, they’re good at what they do.
It’s fluff but overall “Dark Shadows” is a really fun movie, and if you’re only going to see one pale-vampire-looking-awkward film this year, see.. “Twilight: Breaking Dawn Part II”. Okay, cheap shot. See this one.